Friday, September 19, 2008

Dangerous Wonder

Michael Yaconelli, or Mike as he likes to be called, is an unpretentious pastor of a small church in northern California who grew up under the oppression of legalism and has been fighting his way out since. He is the author of one of my all time favorite books, Messy Spirituality. Dangerous Wonder was written as somewhat of a followup, so I had to get my hands on it.

It would be years after I first bought Dangerous Wonder before I picked it up again to read it. Books do that to me. After waiting patiently among my other books for just the right time, they begin calling out to me. Sometimes in subtle ways through other things I'm reading or listening to; sometimes more directly and immediately as I stand before my bookshelf waiting and listening -- this is how it was with Dangerous Wonder, and when I took it from the shelf and sat down to read it, I finished it a few days later.

I enjoyed this inquiry into the "adventure of childlike faith." Yaconelli is honest and accessible, and in this book he uncovers the beauty of childlikeness: raw wonder, honest curiosity, wide-eyed listening, playfulness, passion, naive grace, and joy-filled terror.

Yaconelli desires to pull out all the stops; any encumbrance between his reader and childlikeness he wishes to remove, and as a result, you will find yourself (some of you more frequently than others) thinking, "But..." The author is prepared for this and addresses it outright with statements from time to time such as, "You might be saying to yourself, 'Wait a minute. You're not actually suggesting that I...'" (my paraphrase). And in response he says, "Go ahead, live irresponsibly! Forget about what is sensible, responsible and prudent and rediscover the childlike passion of falling in love with God" (118).

Though Yaconelli doesn't directly say it, it is this relationship with Christ that allows us to be irresponsible and yet thoughtful of the other. As I see it, such behavior is not irresponsibility; rather it is true responsibility, true responsiveness. In Christ we have a higher responsibility to God and man. Dangerous Wonder comes off as extreme and one-sided for this lack of emphasis on renewing what we think these ideas mean and because he ignores the person-relative aspect of living -- that is to say, the ways in which we draw such lines differently based on personality and personal history. And sometimes we need to be challenged to redraw those lines so that our framework encompasses more of what it means to live (abundantly), but other times our different boundaries are a beautiful part of our need for community in the body of Christ. Or possibly, these paths are not within the scope of this book. At any rate, I do not get the impression that Yaconelli misunderstands these aspects of the abundant life of childlike faith. In his soul he knows, even if perhaps immediate consciousness (what he would think to say right off) hasn't caught up to the deep knowledge.

Most importantly however, I think this is a valuable book. Childlikeness is essential, and it's beautiful. It's highly important to my generation's quest for authenticity because it is authentic. Dangerous Wonder is a challenge to its reader to develop inward sincerity through the liberating work of Christ's transformative way of being. Otherwise it is difficult, perhaps impossible to even know what to look for in an outward search for what's 'real' because we don't know what 'real' looks like. And certainly encountering the genuine happens from both external and internal authenticity; sometimes we do bump into reality unawares, but we recognize and respond to it because of the childlikeness hidden in our being. Furthermore, we come to recognize it more and more clearly as we engage in the lifelong process of Christ's redemptive work, the removal of the stain of our childishness to reveal our new self in Christ, our true self.